Hyatt’s TusCA: An Oasis For Italian In Orange County

Spinaci-Ricotta (bread-based) Gnocchi with Brown Butter, Sage Cheese Vellutata

It seemed to be sort of a mission when I was asked to do a tasting in Orange County – but it wasn’t the first time. I’m intrigued, though, when there’s enough confidence to invite writers to dine inside a chain (albeit somewhat upscale) hotel. Perhaps there’s enough substance there to warrant a splash. Or clatter.

Suspended "glass bubbles"
Suspended glass bubbles

The garnishes at the bar and even some of the herbs used in the kitchen are grown in their burgeoning roof-top garden. They stress that it’s small but I can appreciate any and all efforts to keep ingredients as local as humanly possible. And despite their hotel chain business structure, you can see that TusCA in its 3rd, U.S.-wide Hyatt installment differs with their added focus on using fresh ingredients. The Antipasti are solid – homemade marmalade, real honeycomb, homemade garlic paste, cornichon, whole grain mustard and fig jam round out your cheese, charcuterie and bread accompaniments.

Market Salad With Sweet Basil Vinaigrette

But as it turns out, there’s something special inside this glass-encased super hotel that – dare I wax Los Angeles behind the Orange Curtain here? – is very Beverly Center. As your silverware clinks against your china, there’s an echo to follow each and every clang. But none of this is to discount the originality and inventiveness of the bread-, not potato-based, gnocchi. Still rich and indulgent but not overwhelming – as often the potato gnocchi are – and still packed with amazing flavor.

Funghi Misti Pizza

And TusCA does well with the basics, too. The roasted tomatoes (not to be confused with the sun-dried variety) are delightful bursts of flavor in the Market Salad, dressed with Sweet Basil Vinaigrette. The flatbread Neopolitan pizza is solid. My favorite was the Funghi Misti – topped with amazing Fontina cheese, a little Taleggio and thyme and a variety of mushrooms are deliciously roasted into the pie. There’s a good selection of toppings and all are pretty fabulous, including the original TusCAn (Marinated artichoke, roasted garlic, olives and mozzarella) and Prosciutto (Asparagus, tomato, mozzarella and egg). Of course, it’s the flatbread that forms the basis of each pie and their fire brick-roasting oven is no detail to their success.

Seared Halibut, thyme, fennel and orange salad

The seared halibut was also a surprise with how well it was prepared, with the citrus in the side orange salad complimenting the still-tender, juicy filet. A solid Secondi, overall.

Affogato (Vanilla Gelato, Espresso and Shaved Chocolate)

Rounding out the end of the meal was an impressive rendition of Affogato al Cioccolato, with real shaved chocolate and a strong shot of espresso to pour over our vanilla gelato. As with all affagato, just be quick to eat the delicious dessert before it melts away.

TusCA is a surprising oasis in a well-appointed chain hotel whose clientele waffles between Disneyland visitors and perhaps Disneyland (or other) corporates. Just above the restaurant were the plans for EuroDisney conceived and developed in former office spaces-turned-suites. So there’s no mistake that the space indeed is very Orange County – but thanks to Chef Laura De Martin and Executive Chef Sayed Moalemi, the cuisine itself will take you to North Italy.

All food and wine were hosted. Additionally, a night’s stay was provided.

TusCA – Hyatt Regency Orange County
11999 Harbor Blvd
Garden Grove, CA 92840
714.740.6047

Dinner menu

Breakfast: Mon – Sun: 6:30 AM – 11:30 AM
Lunch: Mon – Sun: 11:30 AM – 2 PM
Dinner: Mon – Sun: 5 PM – 10 PM